These pieces were constructed from fragments of piano rags by Scott Joplin (and in some cases, Joplin in collaboration with Scott Hayden). I modified and combined the fragments in various ways, and re-expressed them in scaleless Just Intonation. By "scaleless", I mean that instead of starting with a predetermined scale, pitches were freely chosen as needed to complete the desired just intervals at each point in the composition. (The same technique Lou Harrison called "free-style Just Intonation".)
Around 1916, while Scott Joplin was making the last of his piano-roll recordings, Henry Cowell was beginning the work he would eventually publish as "New Musical Resources" in 1930. Cowell's book discusses Just Intonation, though only as an inspiration for building exotic equal-temperament chords. He also proposed the use of simultaneous voices in different tempos, related by ratios. To achieve the required precise control of timings, Cowell suggested using the player-piano. From the 1940's onward, Conlon Nancarrow became the most accomplished practitioner of this polytempo technique, producing almost all of his compositions in the form of player-piano rolls. James Tenney added JI to this line of development with his 1976 piece, Spectral Canon for Conlon Nancarrow, an algorithmic composition for player-piano tuned in Just Intonation.
In these pieces, Joplin is reunited with these later threads of player-piano history. Substituting the computer for the player-piano, we gain a control and flexibility in the pitch domain to match that of the time domain.
Loose-Leaf Rag was derived from Joplin's Fig Leaf Rag, Maple Leaf Rag, and Palm Leaf Rag. It has a conventional ragtime song structure (AABBACCDD).
Elusive Sounds (my personal favorite) employs simultaneous voices in differing tempos, related by relatively complex ratios such as 8:5, 7:5, 12:7, and 17:11.
Catnip Rag occupies a middle ground between the styles of the other two pieces, and mostly uses simpler tempo-ratios, such as 4:3 and 5:4.
May 9, 2017 Subject:
These are terrific!
Mr. Frantz, I read your notes before I listened to the pieces, and was all set to hate them. I didn't think there would be any worthwhile melding of that tradition with experimental cut-and-pasting. But guess what -- I LOVE them! I hope every Joplin fan will listen and save these.
March 26, 2017 Subject:
Would you share the sheet music?
I like the tunes, and I'd love to play them on my own piano.
September 25, 2009 Subject:
Excellent blending of traditional and experimental
All three of these pieces are excellent, and really do unite traditional ragtime procedures with more modern, experimental processes in a unique way. Fascinating and enjoyable listening.